Movie Review: Only God Forgives [2013]

Only God Forgives [2013]

Only God Forgives [2013]
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm
Running Time: 90 minutes

After the critical success of 2011’s Drive, my personal movie of the year, all eyes were focused on director Nicolas Winding Refn. What would he do to follow up his breakout hit? If you had guessed he would make a violent crime drama with incredibly sparse dialogue and a nearly non-existent plot, give yourself a hand.

Ryan Gosling once again takes the lead, this time playing Julian, a mysterious drug smuggler in the seedy Bangkok underworld. After his brother Billy (Tom Burke) is murdered for raping and killing a young prostitute, Julian does not immediately seek vengeance. In fact, he does nothing at all. This infuriates his domineering mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), who flies into Thailand with the ferocity of a Griselda Blanco. She will do whatever it takes to hunt down and kill those involved with her son’s death, and Julian is her pawn in this whether he likes it or not.

Only God Forgives [2013]

This is a simple revenge story, one that takes its sweet time getting anywhere. There is a lot of staring with no words being spoken, and characters are frequently shown to be walking in slow motion. This is “artsy” to the point of exhaustion, and those with little patience will find this a chore to sit through.

Yet there is still something resembling a good film beneath this tedium. Refn’s direction is as stylish as ever, and Bangkok comes to life with an assortment of vibrant neon colors. Many scenes are awash in blue and bright red, and the film itself is quite stunning to look at.

Only God Forgives [2013]

The performances are also memorable. While Gosling does not appear to change his facial expression even once during the entire film, Kristin Scott Thomas is a tour-de-force as the mafioso-like matriarch. Even as her character spews inappropriate diatribe about the size of her son’s genitalia, she remains convincing. Vithaya Pansringam also delivers a quite enjoyable performance as Lt. Chang, the powerful police officer who had a hand in Billy’s death. He comes across as someone who should not be messed with. At all.

Only God Forgives is a divisive film through and through. While not everything works, this is still a visual spectacle that has enough eye candy to make up for some of its weaknesses. At the very least, this further proves that Refn is a filmmaker that knows how to get people talking about his work, and he doesn’t seem to give a damn about what any of us may think.


Movie Review: The Hangover Part II [2011]

The Hangover Part II

The Hangover Part II [2011]
Director: Todd Phillips
Genre: Comedy
Language: English
Country: USA

By all accounts, 2009’s The Hangover was a rousing success. It grossed a stunning $467 million worldwide and received generally positive acclaim from both critics (78% on Rotten Tomatoes) and casual moviegoers alike. Therefore, a sequel was inevitable. Two years later, here we are with The Hangover: Part II, a second effort that follows the original formula right down to a T.

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha are back playing the same group of guys in the original Wolfpack. This time around Stu Price (Helms) is getting married in Thailand. Stu’s planned “Bachelor Brunch” is laughed at by his bros, and he is persuaded later that evening to go out for a beer. Of course, one beer turns into god-knows-how-many, and the fellas wake up with massive hangovers with similar predicaments as the last film.

The Hangover Part II

In lieu of a missing tooth (as in the first), Stu now has a face tattoo identical to Mike Tyson’s. Alan (Galifianakis) has a shaved head. Doug (Bartha) wisely abandoned the group after the aforementioned one beer, and he is resting peacefully at the resort. While Doug went missing in the first one, that honor goes to 16-year-old Teddy (Mason Lee), Stu’s future brother-in-law who joined in on the debauchery. His disappearance is even more frenzied because one of his fingers was found on the coffee table. Throw in a monkey in place of the first movie’s baby, and swap Las Vegas for Bangkok, and you essentially have the same comedy with a different coat of paint.

While the lack of originality is somewhat disconcerting, this comedy formula still works. Raunch is piled on to the point of excess, but that is what these type of comedies are all about. As one might expect with a movie set in Bangkok, more emphasis is put on the seedy underbelly of the city. Sex and drugs are heavily on display, and there is one extended scene at a strip club where Stu gets a little too friendly with a ladyboy. There is so much lewd behavior on hand that Zach Galifianakis swore never to show this movie to his mother. If you’re offended easily, you will want to skip out on this.

The Hangover Part II

There are some obvious issues with the movie. The acting is lackluster at times, especially when the group is actually at the wedding resort. Stu and his future wife Lauren (Jamie Chung) have no chemistry, and her performance is about as bad as they come. Ken Jeong is back as Mr. Chow and is as annoying as ever. I still don’t get the appeal for that guy, and I’m not sure why his micro-penis needs to be shown in both movies. Also, the ending wraps things up a bit too neatly, with huge problems being dismissed far too easily.

As it stands, The Hangover Part II is a darker, even raunchier version of the original, and it stays true to the form. Chances are if you liked the first one, you will like this as well. The movie has lost some of its charm, but it still provides enough laughs to keep things entertaining throughout. I’m not sure a third sequel is necessary, however.